Guest Post: Eliminating The Property Tax Is The Right Path Forward


I’d like to thank “Say Anything Blog” for printing John Dorso’s recent column, “Eliminate the Income Tax, Not the Property Tax.” Mr. Dorso purported to “dis” elimination of property taxes and at the same time tried to sound like he was “dising” the body of which he served as the former Republican House Majority Leader. He tried to sound like a conservative. Instead he clearly showed his lack of knowledge and his adherence to government knows best.

I always liked the old saying, “A horse and carriage go together like love and marriage”. Dorso has demonstrated that “Brash and brainless go together like ignorance and arrogance”. I vividly recall meeting with Dorso at the opening of one legislative session. I approached him with a set of bills that implemented the unanimously passed State Republican Party Resolutions – i.e. the Party Planks.

What was Dorso’s response to the proffered bills? “I don’t care, they’re not my resolutions”. The bills were introduced. However, not a single one got the Republican House Caucus’ endorsement. Every one of the bills went down to defeat. The most any received in YEA votes was 6. Dorso’s tenure as House Majority Leader speaks for itself. Under his “leadership” taxpayers saw higher spending, growth in all state government including welfare, higher education and K-12 education.

Dorso is clearly not a student of history. He opined in his column, “Some of you may remember that at the founding of this great nation you weren’t allowed to vote unless you paid taxes. That had to be property tax as the income tax was passed relatively late in the history of this nation.” Brash? He is wrong about his history. For years while in the legislature he was used to getting away with being so. This shows his arrogance and his grasp of history shows his ignorance.

To vote one had to be a “freeholder”, not a property tax payer. In fact in most states there were no property taxes. As a freeholder one has an interest in government’s actions. Local government had little need for taxes because government was small as it should be. It was funded with duties, excises and user fees; all of which anyone could avoid by simply not utilizing the services or goods that carried such duties, excises or user fees. In North Dakota our K-12 schools were funded, not with property taxes, but with the revenue from the income of 2 of every 36 sections in each township. These state trust lands currently have almost $3 billion invested in Wall Street. We’re told none of this revenue is available to fund our schools. This is absolutely irrational. Mr. Dorso is one of those responsible for this situation.

One thing I must commend Dorso for is his accurate assessment of the disaster of public education. Again, his brashness shows when he says, “I have opposed the State of North Dakota’s deeper involvement in financing the public schools since my time in the legislature.” As House Majority Leader he did NOTHING to reduce the interference of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in our K-12 schools. He did NOTHING. DPI controlled 100% of what happened and continues to do so in our K-12 schools with the full complicity of the State Legislature. DPI did so and continues to do so through the State Accreditation Manual. Most members of local school boards have no idea this happens, yet it does. Failure to comply fully with DPI’s mandates results in withholding of funding until there is full compliance. This occurs ONLY because the State Legislature permits it though legislation.

So who is responsible for lack of local control of our K-12 schools? The North Dakota Education Association has had and continues to have contol of all K-12 education legislation. The salaries of teachers, school schedules, hours per day, design of school facilities; mandated curriculum is all directed by the NDEA thought their political influence in passing and killing legislation. This has NOTHING to do with funding. Funding is simply the stick that is used to impose the National Education Association’s and NDEA’s educational agenda on all North Dakota public school students.

Mr. Dorso personally attacks Charlene Nelson of Empower the Taxpayer. He brashly opined, “I don’t know Mrs. Charlene Nelson of Empower the Taxpayer, but either she is the unwitting dupe of the NDEA or she is so real estate tax centric she can’t see the forest for the trees.” The only actual fact in this nonsensical statement is that he doesn’t know Mrs. Nelson. And he has never taken the time to discuss the matter with her or anyone else from Empower the Taxpayer. I suspect he is unaware the National Education Association pledged to spend up to $5 million to defeat Measure 2. In fact, the NEA and the NDEA were the biggest financial backers in the defeat of M2.

It is interesting Dorso uses so much ink discussing Florida’s public education system. It’s too bad he didn’t spend any time reading Measure 2. It is also too bad he seems to believe the money the state collects is somehow different than property tax dollars. The state sales tax, income tax, and 17 other taxes including oil and other mineral royalties do not belong to the “state” they belong to the citizens of North Dakota. The State simply is the agent to collect these taxes. They are the agent just as they are when they collect local option sales taxes. The local option sales taxes go back to each jurisdiction, with no strings attached, after a “service fee” is charged to collect and send them back.

Measure 2 constitutionally did the same thing that local option sales taxes do. I’ve not heard a single person suggest that the local option sales tax takes away local control. That’s because they doesn’t. They don’t because the statute allowing these taxes so specifies.

Measure 2 was a constitutional amendment and it specifically stated that the 30% of K-12 funding not already funded by the state would come back to each local school district’s School Board (contrary to the direct and intentional lies spread by the Keep It Local coalition which opposed M2) to be spent at the Board’s sole discretion. Currently school boards have no control over any spending. It is all directed through DPI and the state legislature. For those that don’t believe this simply ask your school superintendent whether or not he/she is required to implement the state mandated curriculum by July of this year.

In spite of Dorso’s ignorance of so much of what he opined in his column he is right that non-public schools provide a better education than the public school system. This is as true in North Dakota as in every other state in the nation. I realize this is hard medicine to swallow, nonetheless it’s true. Unfortunately, Dorso is wrong when he brashly writes, “By the way if you want your student to go to a charter school you get to pay a handsome tuition.” The “handsome tuition” is paid by taxpayers for the privilege of sending their children to public schools. There is nothing “free” about public education. The only thing parents sending their children to public schools are “free from” is parental involvement and control in any aspect of the education of their children. The average cost of private K-12 education is approximately half what is spent on the bloated, ineffective and harmful curriculum the children of parents sending their children to public K-12 institutions pay.

Dorso loves property taxes because they help government grow. He is a big government proponent. While he may attempt to DENY this all one has to do is look at his record in the legislature.

As a taxpayer, property owner and citizen of North Dakota I am offended with Mr. Dorso’s repeated slur toward anyone who opposes property taxes. What do I mean? Let me quote his repeated assertion about those of us who oppose property taxes, i.e. seeking to abolish them. He states, “I do understand that a majority of North Dakotans are real estate centric.” Saying this he suggests those seeking to eliminate property taxes are mindless, ignorant and have no idea what they are doing.

One thing is clear. Mr. Dorso is narrow minded and ignorant of the very concept of freedom, independence and security. He is clearly unaware of the harm, property taxes cause to citizens’ wellbeing, prosperity and security. I would go so far as to suggest he simply does not care. Unless a man and his family can have security in their home they have no security. Property taxes DENY all property owners the security we deserve as free persons. Today property taxes force us to sell our homes to escape the ever increasing burden of the insane and irrational property tax system we now suffer or do without things we need and cannot afford because of the burden of property taxes.

During the campaign to pass Measure 2 every opponent said the current system was broken and needed to be fixed. They said Measure 2 was simply not the right fix. Instead they said defeat Measure 2 and let the legislature fix the property tax system.

Those of us supporting Measure 2 had to laugh. Why? Because opponents were talking out of both other side of their mouth. On the one hand they argued property taxes were exclusively a local issue yet they said the state would fix them. Opponents out spent supporters of Measure 2 almost 40 to 1. Sadly those opposing Measure 2 intentionally lied about every aspect of Measure 2. Their biggest lie was just proven as the 2013 Legislature adjourned without doing as opponents promised. By the way, none of the opponents of Measure 2 introduced a single bill to “fix” the mess they said needed fixing.

Legislators, who during the campaign, promised to “fix property taxes” did NOTHING, instead of attempting to do anything to “fix” what they said was broken and that they would fix, they increased spending more than 5 times what it would have cost to fund the TOTAL abolition of property taxes.

Who got the money? The exact same people proponents of Measure 2 said would get our tax dollars. State employees, bigger state government, our state welfare institution – now funded at over $3 billion, in a state with virtually no unemployment; higher education which now educates more non-residents than residents.

When was the last time any North Dakota citizen received a thank you from any non-resident family who sends a child to one of our 13 institutions of higher education? If you didn’t know you subsidize each non-resident student’s college education $11,000 + annually. Today there are fewer FTE North Dakota students in these institutions than there were 20 years ago.

The reasons to abolish property taxes are because they are immoral and contrary to the concept of a free people, independence and honest government. The brashness, ignorance and arrogance shown by Mr. Dorso is mirrored by the majority of legislators. Don’t expect any reform of our property tax system until there is wholesale replacement of our current legislature. Dorso is simply carrying water for those who fear losing the power to hold the security of our homes over our heads. If there is to be reform it will only come from we citizen’s taking matters into our own hands and using the power currently available to us – the initiated measure.

By the way, the initiated measure is now in jeopardy. Measure 2 so frightened our greedy politicians they voted to put a referral on the ballot requesting North Dakotans to give up a significant power that is currently reserved to us.

Senator David Hogue(R-District 38, Minot) is the author of this big government grab for power over the security of our homes and our income. Senator Hogue’s resolution will, if passed, will deny any measure the Secretary of State says would impact the state budget by $40 million or more – that’s less than 1/3rd of 1% of the just passed state budget. Any measure exceeding the Secretary’s estimate of $40 million will be put in the hands of the legislature and taken from voters. In short, the power of the initiated measure will be taken from us, if Senator Hogue and those like him are able to convince you to relinquish this power.

Why is he doing this? When asked Senator Hogue said, “I believe voters should have the right to vote away their rights.” He argues the legislature, not voters, is best informed to decide what state spending should be and what the burden on taxpayers should be. Sounds like President Obama’s opinion of what our choices in health care should be. Sounds like Mayor Bloomberg’s opinion of how big a soda one can buy in New York City. Sounds like First Lady Michelle Obama’s dictating to parents what our children can and cannot have for lunch in schools receiving federal funding.

Are you ready for this Brave New World? If not, go to our website at and let us know. If you are ready to take control of your government make a contribution. If we raise $100,000 we will bring back the measure to abolish property taxes.

I will gladly debate Mr. Dorso in a broadcast public forum on property taxes. I agree with him that income taxes should be abolished. However property taxes must be abolished if any citizen is to ever have true independence and security. North Dakota can abolish both property taxes and income taxes and North Dakota would still have a billion dollar surplus – if special interests were not being funded at the expense of North Dakota’s hard working families. It’s clear our politicians will not do the job – if we want it done we’ll have to do it ourselves – that’s what freedom and democracy is all about.